Sunday, September 27, 2009

Humor me.

So I decided to try my hand at humor again—nothing extravagant, just a short piece. I love to read humor and I sometimes inject a bit into my more serious stories, but I'm beginning to understand that sitting down and making a commitment to write humor—all out, full throttle—is not as easy as I would have thought. This puzzles me as well-written humor seems to flow more naturally from the author's own personality than say horror or science fiction, which tend to have more technical aspects.

I guess humor is more personal for each one of us. I tend to have a dark, dry humor that my wife often doesn't get, much to her exasperation. Some people prefer the more direct slap-stick approach. And then there's everything in between. I suppose, to a certain extent, romance is romance, horror is horror, but humor is often in the eye of the beholder. So I'm taking a survey, of sorts. How do you look at the funny stuff? Does it come easy for you? Or is it a challenge? Possibly you wouldn't even attempt it—or maybe it's all you write? Do you like to season your more dramatic pieces with a pinch of it, or do you feel that it detracts from serious writing?

What are your thoughts? Humor me.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Cement Boot

The City of Windsor today stuck a woman in wet cement up to the calf. Nefarious, I say. I think it's a warning... This Could Happen To You, Inklings Bookshop. Be Warned. We Bury People Alive. In Cement. And When We Accidentally Collapse the City into the Detroit River, Cement Will Sink...

Luckily, however, I know the City of Windsor, and thus know that due to some Engineering Error the City of Windsor will likely be forced to tear up any cement they lay down, freeing everyone from imprisonment. Apparently newly laid cement is irresistable to City of Windsor steam shovels. It's hard and tar-like surface is, apparently, much akin to toffee.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Oh, Shit is a Low Blow Even For You, City of Windsor

Okay, the City of Windsor just had a waste truck outside my store. A waste truck pumping (or dispersing?) shit. Through a big tube. A big leaky tube. And to prevent this from getting all over the sidewalk (the brand new sidewalk) the City of Windsor worker used a giant wooden board to deflect most of the shit. And then he left the giant wooden plank in the middle of the sidewalk. Covered in shit. And then he drove off. With the board still on the sidewalk. Did I mention it was covered in shit? Yes, shit.

That is a low blow, a dictionary definition case.

So... Inklings Bookshop is now officially at war with the City of Windsor. It will be a short war. Since, well, I'm closing. But also because I'm going to win! Ha ha! Once the City of Windsor fully subsumes the downtown core beneath the Detroit River I'm going to rally the mer-people and revolt. The City of Windsor won't be laughing so smugly with large tridents sticking out of their chests. "How's that for a public service!" ZHAM! (Notice the wonderful sound effects. I bet you didn't know giant tridents made that sound, but they do.) ZHAM! (See?)

Friday, September 11, 2009

Finger Choppings, Book Sales and Writing Sabbaticals

So, there hasn't been a post in awhile. Why, you ask? (I knew you'd ask that) Well, the first thing is that I chopped the heck out of my finger on a broken ceramic tile (Thank you, City of Windsor construction team!). Cut a nerve for free! I love bonuses. So, a painful and numbed fingertip equals less typing. And also, on the brighter side, my sale has been going great! Customers! They're this amazing breed of people who come in and give me money. I should have met these folks a long time ago. Whew, life would have been easier. So, no time to type on account of the need for money collection. :)

But this week in absentia got me thinking about time away from writing, whether physical or mental. Have you spent time away from writing? What was the experience and what was it like? And I think the big WB fits in here. Writer's Block, though I don't entirely believe in it. Or, rather, I'm not sure I entirely believe in writer's block as a thing in and of itself.

I think, in a sense, we've romanticized Writer's Block. We've made of it an enemy, a writerly Arch Nemesis, the big bad wolf who's coming to huff and puff at our door. I think this is a little simplistic, however, and find it a little dangerous to concede to such an idea. Perhaps you have a fear of failure, or a fear of success... labelling it as Writer's Block is misleading. There's no entity there. Maybe you're just lazy and don't want to face the necessity of work. Perhaps you don't have the energy for any number of reasons. Writer's Block, I think, is a shield, a mask, a boogey man to hide our challenges behind, to conceal the difficulties we face.

A little story: My father passed away in 2003, just before I was married. Grief mixing with the inevitability of starting a new life... I was moving, had just finished school, was just starting a new career while dealing with the onset of a chronic disease... life was a whirl, a maelstrom of demands and tensions. Some of these demands were wonderful and positive, yet others were less so. And amidst this I didn't write much of anything. A year? A year and a half?

To complicate things further, I'd just gotten an agent for a novel I'd written. What little creative energy I had went into final edits for that book, a project I'd poured a whole lot of myself into. And when my agent died just at the submission point... well, things came to a halt.

I was burnt out with that novel. I put it on a shelf (it's still there, awaiting a rewrite). Perhaps I was burnt out with writing in general... but I'm not so sure. Writer's Block? Again, I don't think so. I think it's a matter of human energy. One only has so much. I wasn't so much blocked as temporarily empty. And yet I wasn't bothered by this. I thought about writing, sometimes, and still had the occasional idea. But the vital energy wasn't there, and I accepted that. I knew it would come back. That energy was part of who I was... but I had depleted it, and it needed a little time to refill.

Grief was a big part of it, I think. Mental energy was being spent on memory, on an adjustment of the self in regards to its interaction with the world around it. I had to assess this new world, this new life I had come into. I had to make some sense of it before my eyes turned outward again. I needed to assess that foundation of self from which all fiction must spring, however well buried those foundation stones must be.

And, slowly, as I found new patterns in my new life, I found that energy replenishing itself, found that interior drive returning. I was still a little burnt out with that old novel. I had started a new career once again, and this was both tiring and invigorating. So I returned to writing full time, starting some new projects for a new stage in my life, and over the next few years I wrote two novels (or three, in a sense, if you look at them as they are now) which are now coming to fruition, as well as a number of stories.

And yet looking back I don't see that dry spell as a bad time, but rather as a necessary one. I think writer's block is sometimes what we make of it. If you make it a Boogey Man don't be surprised if it haunts your mental closet every night. I think, at least for me, there are more apt metaphors. Sometimes when I remember that period I think of the fields that lie around my house. Fallow fields are an old farming trick. If you plant rich crops every year, sometimes this abundance of life will leach the nutrients right out of the soil, and soon nothing will grow there, or nothing, at least, that you'd want to consume. Scraggly and withered is not good. So farmers would leave one of their fields fallow each year, unplanted, and each year they would rotate it to a new field. So every few years each field would have a fallow year, a year in which to replenish itself, to absorb the wind and rain and light, to feast on insects and plants and flowers. This is not done for the present, for quick gain, but rather for the future, as a way of ensuring rich and bountiful crops.

We are not so different, I think. Fallow periods feed productive ones. Vibrant stories come from rich imaginative soil. And sometimes that soil needs time to replenish itself.

So what are your experiences with fallow periods? Was it the big W and big B Writer's Block? Or something more specific? And are you better or worse for that period?

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The Anecdotal Life of a Bookshop: The Moat

Yes, I have a moat in front of my shop. No lie. I thought I would move to a more medieval look, and this would be better for scaring intruding customers away.

And it was free! The city did it for absolutely nothing.

I came in today, excited, as it's sort of an important day: the first day of my big two month closing sale. The day I advertized for with that cold hard cash that had to be pried from my tight, tight fingers. And I arrive to find... no sidewalk. The city chose this day of all days to tear it up. And when I mean tear, I really mean tear. Tearing to the measure of a trench three feet wide and three feet deep. A wonderful moat. Apparently customers will really have to earn their book sale. By hurdling a moat. Plus the dodging of jackhammers, plows and steam shovels. I'm only awaiting Indiana Jones to swing in on his whip. I may have to rig up the flaming arrows myself. If I want the proper atmosphere, that is. And, you know, atmosphere is everything. There's no joie de vivre without flaming arrows.

And they broke my step. Tiles are all busted. But, hey, luckily the step won't be mine for much longer. Ha! Do your worst, City of Windsor. If you cross my moat I shall smite thee with a copy of The Canterbury Tales. Annotated. Hardcover. You haven't been smited until you've been smited with one of those. The gold leaf adds an extra little flair to the smiting.

Oh, and the workers cut a gas line, too. If they really work on it I think they can get the whole downtown core to subside into the Detroit River. I'm putting it at 50-50 right now. The Union Gas guy came to check my furnace and pilot light. Apparently I'm not going to burn up or asphyxiate. Which is good to know. I'd hate to be robbed of the chance to see the bottom of the Detroit River from the comfy confines of a bookshop.